dis·​tend | \ di-ˈstend How to pronounce distend (audio) \
distended; distending; distends

Definition of distend

transitive verb

1 : extend the main outlines of the land yet lay clearly distended before them— Norman Douglas
2 : to enlarge, expand, or stretch out (as from internal pressure) : swell a distended abdomen

intransitive verb

: to become enlarged, expanded, or stretched out causing the stomach to distend

Choose the Right Synonym for distend

expand, amplify, swell, distend, inflate, dilate mean to increase in size or volume. expand may apply regardless of the manner of increase (such as growth, unfolding, addition of parts). a business that expands every year amplify implies the extension or enlargement of something inadequate. amplify the statement with details swell implies gradual expansion beyond a thing's original or normal limits. the bureaucracy swelled to unmanageable proportions distend implies outward extension caused by pressure from within. a distended abdomen inflate implies expanding by introduction of air or something insubstantial and suggests a vulnerability to sudden collapse. an inflated ego dilate applies especially to expansion of circumference. dilated pupils

Did you know?

The history of the word distend stretches back to the Latin verb tendere - a root whose kin have really expanded our language. To find evidence of this expansion, look to words that include "tend" or "tent"; many have "tendere," which means "to stretch, extend, or spread," in their family tree. Perhaps the simplest example is "tent," which names a shelter made from a piece of material stretched over a frame. You'll also find the influence of "tendere" in "extend," "tendon," "contend," "portend," and "tendency."

Examples of distend in a Sentence

an abdomen distended by disease
Recent Examples on the Web Blebs signal cell suicide; when stressed cells start chopping up their own proteins, their membranes distend. Laura Mallonee, Wired, 19 May 2020 In a bare living room, Huang struggled with a paper folder, his fingers distended like misshapen balloons. Washington Post, 29 Dec. 2019 In a bare living room, Huang struggled with a paper folder, his fingers distended like misshapen balloons. Anchorage Daily News, 30 Dec. 2019 And that power remains with opinion leaders who are, at this point, skilled hands at distending their own cultural anxieties into panics that—time and time and time again—smother history, fact, and common sense into irrelevance. Osita Nwanevu, The New Republic, 23 Sep. 2019 Water in her muscles will convert into vapor, which will collect under Lisa’s skin, distending areas of her body to twice their normal size. Caitlin Doughty, Popular Mechanics, 18 Sep. 2019 On one table lay the body of someone frozen statue-like in death, the stomach distended and a hand jutting stiffly outward. Sonia Perez D., chicagotribune.com, 8 June 2018 One person who saw the corpse of the officer, Major General Ali al-Qahtani, said his neck was twisted as if it had been broken, and that his body was badly bruised and distended. BostonGlobe.com, 12 Mar. 2018 Larger cells in a woman’s heart could interrupt its electrical pathways, the authors suspect, and extra pressure against the lungs (due to a woman’s large size) could cause the heart to distend. Amanda Macmillan, Time, 8 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'distend.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of distend

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for distend

Middle English, from Latin distendere, from dis- + tendere to stretch — more at thin

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The first known use of distend was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Distend.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distend. Accessed 2 Dec. 2021.

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More Definitions for distend



English Language Learners Definition of distend

: to become larger and rounder because of pressure from inside


dis·​tend | \ di-ˈstend How to pronounce distend (audio) \
distended; distending

Kids Definition of distend

: expand sense 2, swell Illness can cause the stomach to distend.


transitive verb
dis·​tend | \ dis-ˈtend How to pronounce distend (audio) \

Medical Definition of distend

: to enlarge or stretch out (as from internal pressure) distended veins

intransitive verb

: to become expanded


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